A drug that both cures malaria and prevents the transmission of the deadly disease can be a step closer, research suggests.
Scientists discovered that inhibiting the PfCLK3 protein blocks different stages that are crucial to the complex life cycle of the parasite behind the killer disease.
Tests showed that it prevented the parasite in mice from developing into the & # 39; adult phase & # 39; that infects people by mosquitoes.
An expert named the study by researchers at the University of Glasgow & # 39; exciting & # 39 ;.
But they added that multiple approaches are needed to combat treatment resistance, with & # 39; no one can eradicate malaria & # 39 ;.
Scientists may be a step closer to developing an anti-malarial that both heals the infection and prevents its transmission through mosquitoes, research suggests (stock)
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that malaria will not be wiped out in the near future with & # 39; the tools we have today & & # 39 ;.
More than 200 million cases occur worldwide every year, killing around 500,000, the researchers wrote in the journal Science.
Attempts to control outbreaks have been hampered by the slowly growing resistance of the parasites to medicines.
There is therefore an urgent need for new strategies to cure malaria and at the same time prevent transmission.
To get closer to this, the researchers have screened more than 24,000 substances that are thought to be involved in the development of a malaria parasite.
They focused on Plasmodium falciparum, the most common species worldwide and the most likely fatal.
It was determined that PfCLK3 has a & # 39; central role & # 39; plays a role in regulating the gene expression of the parasite.
To test this, mice were infected with Plasmodium falciparum. The researchers then blocked PfCLK3 in the parasites in the rodents.
This suppressed the activity of more than 400 genes that & # 39; essential & # 39; are for the survival of the pathogen.
This in turn prevented the pathogen from multiplying in the animals' red blood cells. These cells eventually burst, causing a patient to experience the significant malaria fever.
Blocking PfCLK3 also prevented other forms of the parasite from circulating in the mice's blood.
WHAT IS MALARIA?
Malaria is a life-threatening tropical disease that is spread by mosquitoes.
It is one of & # 39; the world's biggest killers and claims the life of a child every two minutes according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Most of these deaths occur in Africa, where 250,000 young people die each year from the disease.
Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, five of which cause malaria.
The Plasmodium parasite is mainly spread by female Anopheles mosquitoes.
When an infected mosquito bites a person, the parasite enters its bloodstream.
- Feeling hot and shivering
- muscle strain
These usually appear between a week and 18 days of infection, but can last up to a year or sometimes even more.
People should seek medical attention immediately if they develop symptoms during or after a visit to an area affected by malaria.
Malaria can be found in more than 100 countries, including:
- Large parts of Africa and Asia
- Central and South America
- Haiti and the Dominican Republic
- Parts of the Middle East
- Some islands in the Pacific
A blood test confirms a diagnosis.
In very rare cases, malaria can be spread through blood transfusions.
For the most part, malaria can be prevented by using insect repellent, wearing clothing that covers your limbs and using an insecticide-treated mosquito net.
Malaria prevention tablets are also often recommended.
Treatment that uses medication against malaria usually leads to a full recovery if done early enough.
Left untreated, the infection can lead to severe anemia. This happens when the parasites invade red blood cells, which then rupture and generally reduce the number of cells.
And cerebral malaria can occur when the small blood vessels in the brain are blocked, which can lead to seizures, brain damage and even coma.
Source: NHS choices
When a mosquito bites an infected person, it absorbs these parasites. These then find their way into the insect's salivary glands, which means it can infect others.
In general, inhibition of PfCLK3 & # 39; was very effective in clearing malaria parasites in rodents from infected mice & # 39 ;.
The approach also led to & # 39; anti-parasitic activity & # 39; against the malaria species Plasmodium berghei, which infects certain rodents, and knowlesi, which largely affect macaques.
This suggests that blocking PfCLK3 could work with & # 39; multiple malaria species & # 39 ;.
However, the researchers note that the same approach may not be effective in humans.
Dr. Jake Baum, professor of cell biology and infectious diseases at Imperial College London, said: & We are at an important crossroads in the control and eradication of malaria.
& # 39; There is increasing drug resistance in Southeast Asia and we have maintained our efforts to reduce the incidence of malaria worldwide.
& # 39; Therefore, just as with antibiotic resistance, there is an urgent need for new medicines with new modes of action.
& # 39; This is where current research fits in, looking at an exciting class of drugs that indeed works in a new way. & # 39;
He added: & # 39; So far, the authors in this article show that the drug has robust activity focused on the malaria parasite at various stages of its life cycle.
& # 39; It is still very early in development and there is still a long way to go before these drugs are even tested in humans, but we need a full pipeline for the long way if we are to achieve global eradication. & # 39 ;
However, Professor Baum added: “No medicine will eradicate malaria.” He said: & # 39; We don't just need a replacement, but a replacement pipeline.
& # 39; It will always be a revolving door – new medicines in it, old ones when nature always finds a way to develop resistance. We must be clear, no medicine will eradicate malaria. & # 39;
Michael Chew, portfolio manager for infections and immunobiology at the Wellcome Trust, added: & # 39; This study has identified a substance that disrupts a specific target on multiple species of the malaria parasite at every stage of the life cycle.
& # 39; This effectively kills it before it can cause disease or be transmitted to others via mosquito bites.
& # 39; It must now be further developed and tested in clinical trials. If this succeeds, it can lead to urgent new drugs to tackle malaria, affecting around 200 million people every year. & # 39;
The WHO warned earlier this week that it is not yet possible to determine a date on which malaria can be eradicated.
Dr. Pedro Alonso, global body malaria director, said: “With the tools we have today, it is very unlikely that eradication could be achieved.
Between 2000 and 2015, an ongoing attempt to eliminate the disease saw worldwide malaria mortality fall from 864,000 to 429,000 a year.
& # 39; The world is at a crossroads. The historical progress that has been made over the past decade is clearly slowing down, & Dr. 39 said. Alonso.
A WHO report even predicts given its & # 39; most optimistic scenarios & projections … we will still have 11 million cases in Africa in 2050. & # 39;
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